In the same way that Hillary Clinton channeled the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt, well-known writer and author Sam Tanenhaus is trying to tell the world what communist-turned-conservative Whittaker Chambers would say and do about radical Islam.
Tanenhaus wrote a biography of Chambers, who left the Communist Party in order to expose State Department official Alger Hiss and others as communists and Soviet agents. Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950 for denying he was a Soviet spy and sentenced to prison, but the conviction came after much of Hiss’s damage had been done.
By then, the “House that Hiss Built,” the United Nations, had been firmly established. Chambers died in 1961; Hiss in 1996.
Writing in The New Republic, Tanenhaus maintained that Chambers would not regard the radical Islamic menace as comparable to Soviet communism. “Yes, we are now in conflict with a grim adversary, but not with an opponent superpower, nor with anything resembling an empire, and it does no good to pretend otherwise,” said Tanenhaus. He added that “George W. Bush’s worldview is precisely the one that Whittaker Chambers outgrew.”
In effect, he is saying that the George W. Bush approach is infantile, amateurish, or overblown.
“That’s Bob Woodward journalism,” remarked Herbert Romerstein, a former professional staff member of the House Intelligence Committee and expert on the Hiss case. Woodward was the source of the story that Hillary channeled the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt. Woodward also claimed that former CIA director Bill Casey, on his death bed and unable to speak, had given an interview about the Iran-Contra affair.
Romerstein did not think that Chambers would have been disdainful of the need for a war on international terrorism. Chambers became a staunch Christian in life and understood that the enemies of America took many forms and misled the world about their numbers and intentions. It could be argued that that he would see radical Islam as an enemy just as cunning and dangerous as Soviet communism.
“Chambers believed in defending America from its enemies,” Romerstein said.
The problem for Tanenhaus, whose article was posted on July 2, is that officials of al Qaeda speak openly of creating a regional or global Islamic state known as the caliphate. Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri did so again in a video released on July 5.
Asked why Chambers wrote nothing about the Islamic threat in his classic book Witness, Romerstein noted that “They weren’t attacking us.” The radical Islamic attacks on the U.S. began with intensity in the 1970s with the coming to power of the Ayatollahs in Iran.
As the AIM film, “Confronting Iraq,” makes clear, Iran was the birthplace of modern political Islam. “The mullahs seized power in a wave of religious fury in 1979,” it notes. “They built a terrorist movement in Lebanon that killed 241 U.S. marines. They orchestrated the Khobar Towers bombing and scores of other outrages. They built the cult of the suicide bomber.”
Even today, there are some who do not want to see the obvious ?that the Iranian mullahs are not only killing American soldiers in Iraq, but building a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Strangely, Bush himself talks of success in Iraq, not victory, and his policy toward Iran, which he accuses of pursuing nuclear weapons, seems to be all talk and no action.
See No Evil
In the Summer 2007 issue of Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Quarterly, an analyst named Gawdat Bahgat argues that “Iran’s nuclear activities have not been completely in keeping with its commitments to the Non-proliferation Treaty,” but that “despite violations and some serious irregularities, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has not been able to find evidence that Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons.” He insists that “No ‘smoking gun’ has yet been found.”
Officially, the IAEA says it cannot determine with confidence whether Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons. At the same time, it does not have confidence that the program is “exclusively peaceful.”
Kenneth Pollack, who was director for Persian Gulf affairs on the National Security Council under President Clinton, says that Iran “has lied in the past about nearly every aspect of its nuclear program…”
The official U.S. position is that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
In an article published in the journal Iranian Studies, Bahgat, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, also insisted there was no “smoking gun” verifying the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program but he conceded that “the scope and long secrecy of Iranian nuclear activities have led many observers to conclude that Iran is pursuing such capability.” He went on to say that “Iran’s active and growing missile capabilities have further deepened the suspicion regarding its nuclear program.”
Yet Bahgat argued that “Iran needs to reach some accommodation with major Western powers” and that “the United States and Europe need to constructively engage Iran in an effort to foster greater political stability and contain the violence inherent in the Middle East and west Asia.” He doesn’t explain how this is to be done.
In order to understand how Chambers might have reacted to the Islamic danger, it is worthwhile to examine how Chambers’ main target, Hiss, was part of another threat that was real at the time, as real as Soviet communism, but which was never defeated and continues to grow and expand. That threat is represented by the United Nations.
Hiss was a communist spy as well as a globalist. He believed that the cause of international communism was furthered by the creation and spread of international organizations and agencies. He knew that they were as thoroughly penetrated as the U.S. Government. Indeed, subsequent investigations by Congress would focus on the large number of communists getting jobs at the U.N.
The U.N., the “house that Hiss built,” continues to grow in power and influence despite the demise of the Soviet Union. Ironically, Russia now seems opposed to the U.N.’s latest project, the dismemberment of Serbia and the transformation of its province Kosovo into an independent Muslim state closely tied to Albania. In this case, it’s the Bush Administration and the European Union which have facilitated and approved the unprecedented U.N. scheme.
We are accustomed to thinking of spies stealing and providing documents and other information to the enemy. The “pumpkin papers,” stolen and secret State Department documents given to Chambers by Hiss and hidden in the form of microfilm in a hollowed-out pumpkin at Chambers’ farm, were absolute proof of Hiss’s role as a Soviet spy.
But less attention is devoted to how spies actually shape U.S. policy. Hiss and his fellow communist spies and agents, such as Harry Dexter White, were instrumental in creating the international institutions of the post-World War II world. White was a founder of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Chambers himself wrote, “In the persons of Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White, the Soviet military intelligence sat close to the heart of the United States Government.” He went on, “In a situation with few parallels in history, the agents of an enemy power were in a position to do much more than purloin documents. They were in a position to influence the nation’s foreign policy in the interests of the nation’s chief enemy?”
Chambers said “That power to influence policy had always been the ultimate purpose of the Communist Party’s infiltration.”
Failures Of The U.N.
If there is some doubt as to how Chambers would regard President Bush’s war on terror, there can be little doubt that the institutions set up by Hiss and White failed to deter the advance of Soviet communism. In fact, then-Soviet Ambassador to the U.N. Andrei Gromyko was so confident of the direction of the U.N. at the time of its founding that he recommended that Hiss be its first Secretary-General. Hiss’s career was cut short by Chambers’ allegations. But he survived long enough politically to serve as its first acting secretary-general. Hiss, Romerstein said, saw the creation of the U.N. as a “great opportunity” for the Soviet Union. He said Hiss saw the U.N. as designed to “impede our ability to do what we needed to do in other areas.”
Bringing the problem up to date, we know that the U.N. failed to dislodge Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization from Afghanistan prior to 9/11, even though several U.N. resolutions had been passed to this effect. U.N. Security Council resolution 1333, for example, was adopted on December 19, 2000, and demanded that Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities act swiftly to close all camps where terrorists are trained. Before that, the Security Council had adopted resolution 1267, requiring that the Taliban turn over Osama bin Laden. None of this happened.
Of course, 17 U.N. resolutions had been passed to force the disarming of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. All of them were failures as well; they were only enforced when the U.S. under President Bush, along with its allies, invaded Iraq and overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime. This record reinforces the point that the U.N., then as now, provides a sense of false security for the world.
Whittaker Chambers regarded Hiss’s role in post-war planning with great suspicion. Chambers wrote in Witness that the Soviet Union was not a “great ally” but “a calculating enemy making use of World War II to prepare for World War III…” Indeed, Hiss was advising FDR at Yalta, which helps to explain why Eastern Europe was betrayed to the Soviets.
One of Chambers’ famous essays, “Ghosts on the Roof,” was openly skeptical of the outcome of the Yalta conference, where Soviet dictator Stalin emerged as a friend of the West and a statesman devoted to peace and security. The following years proved that Stalin’s acquiescence in the formation of the U.N. was a ploy designed to lull the West to sleep.
The Bush Approach
Sam Tanenhaus in his New Republic article declares that “capacious internationalism” has been replaced with the “suffocating unilateralism” of the Bush Doctrine of attacking hostile groups or regimes before they attack America. But Tanenhaus cannot possibly believe the alternative is reliance on the failed international organizations and institutions that Hiss himself worked so hard to create.
Interestingly, Bush, too, has rejected his own “unilateralism.” It has been replaced by a curious philosophy of globalism articulated and practiced by John B. Bellinger III, the legal adviser at the Department of State who has been shaping the legal underpinnings of the U.S. foreign policy approach behind the scenes for two years now. He is behind the policy of increased U.S. cooperation with the International Criminal Court and has been trying to convince conservatives to support the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a project of Soviet client states and pro-Marxist World Federalists who wanted to create a world government.
UNCLOS was rejected by President Reagan, who, of course, was a great fan of Whittaker Chambers. Reagan gave him the Medal of Freedom posthumously. The Bush Administration itself honored Chambers in 2001.
The tragedy is that the admiration that Presidents Reagan and Bush had for Chambers has never filtered down into the State Department. Indeed, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the world body, the State Department published a report about how the U.N. was established, carefully omitting any mention of Hiss’s pivotal role. “That was just a brief summary paper on the organization itself as I recall,” said State Department historian Marc J. Susser. He said the document was a “bare-bones history” and “brief outline” of the world body. Susser said he didn’t write it but “went over it.” He explained, “Somebody in the office did it.”
Glancing over it again, Susser noted that the paper, more than 2,600 words in length, mentions “a couple presidents” and “a few secretaries” but “doesn’t go down much below that level?” He added, “It doesn’t go into the level of who in the department was actually involved in this.”
Yet there was a reference in the State Department report to the role of Harry Hopkins, noting that he had had “many wartime discussions with Stalin” and was “directed” by President Truman “to travel to Moscow and negotiate with the Soviet leader” about the U.N. Charter. Asked why information was not included in the report about Hopkins being a Soviet agent of influence, Susser said he was not familiar with it.
Agent Of Influence
The revelations about Hopkins, who had also served as the closest and most influential adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, first surfaced in a 1990 book by Christopher Andrew based on information provided by Oleg Gordievsky, a high-level KGB officer who had also been smuggled out of the Soviet Union by British intelligence. Gordievsky reported that Iskhak Ahkmerov, the KGB officer who controlled the illegal Soviet agents in the U.S. during the war, had said that Hopkins was “the most important of all Soviet wartime agents in the United States.”
In Harry Hopkins: A Biography, a flattering book about the former aide to FDR and Truman published in 1977, the author, Henry H. Adams, writes about the trip referred to in the State Department report on the founding of the U.N. Adams says that Hopkins “probably saved the United Nations?”
The United Nations has not been shy about acknowledging Hiss’s role in the founding of the U.N. It includes on its website an interview conducted with Hiss in 1990, in which he explained that the founders of the U.N., including himself, believed in “the necessary powers that an international organization should have” and that “greater powers” and even a military staff committee were provided to the U.N. Security Council so that the world body would be able to “enforce” its will on the world.
It is significant that the U.N. would feature this interview, conducted long after Hiss was exposed as a communist spy, but that the U.S. State Department would pretend that he wasn’t even involved in the founding of the world body.
Bush And The U.N.
The Bush Administration’s increasing reliance on the U.N. in foreign affairs is not a good sign. It seems to signal a loss of confidence in the eventual outcome of the struggle we are now engaged.
Bush has some time left in his second term to right himself. He should consider returning to the Reagan approach of refusing to back down in the face of evil.
Reagan invoked the name of Whittaker Chambers in remarks delivered on March 8, 1983, and went on to declare that “I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual.”
To his credit, Bush has recognized the spiritual dimension of the current struggle we are in and continues to speak about it.
In his speech on Independence Day to members of the West Virginia Air National Guard, for example, he drew a contrast between what Americans and radical Islamists believe. “We believe in an Almighty, we believe in the freedom for people to worship that Almighty. They don’t. They don’t believe you should worship the way you choose,” he noted.
At a conference in Prague, the Czech Republic, of dissidents and democratic activists, Bush said that 9/11 was evidence of “an international movement of violent Islamic extremists that threatens free people everywhere.”
He went on to say that “The extremists’ ambition is to build a totalitarian empire?Their strategy to achieve that goal is to frighten the world into surrender through a ruthless campaign of terrorist murder.”
Appeasing The Militants
But Bush’s Cold War-style rhetoric hasn’t matched his actions. In another recent speech, given at the Saudi-funded Islamic Center of Washington, Bush defended President Clinton’s illegal military intervention in the former Yugoslavia. “Our country defended Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo after the breakup of Yugoslavia,” he said to applause. Bush has carried forward and accelerated the disastrous Clinton policy of dismembering Yugoslavia, which had a largely Christian population despite its history of communist rule, and making Kosovo into an independent Muslim state. It is the policy recommended by the U.N.
In the same speech, Bush also announced, to applause, that he would appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
The OIC is one of the largest blocs of nations at the U.N. and includes Iran, one of the greatest current threats to world peace and stability, as a member in good standing. Bush’s own military commanders in Iraq have documented how Iran is killing American soldiers in Iraq. A group called the Iran Policy Committee, consisting of former military officials and scholars, has even identified a roadside bomb factory in Iran. But Bush hasn’t hit Iranian facilities in retaliation for their attacks on Americans. Indeed, he has authorized the State Department to negotiate with the Iranian regime.
The OIC is the main reason why the U.N. has failed to come up with a definition of international terrorism. It wants approval for terrorism in the name of pretending to be against it. This is how the U.N. itself operates.
What Would Reagan Do?
Would Reagan, almost six years after 9/11, have taken the path of accommodating such an organization? Or would he have challenged its leaders to cleanse their ranks of radical states and movements? And would he pretend that the problem in Iraq could be solved without holding Iran accountable for interfering with the emergence of a Democratic government there?
Like Tanenhaus, Bush may be confused. But Chambers never was. His prescription would be absolute victory over the enemy.
What You Can Do